“I couldn’t be more excited,” he said. “Seeing the guys that made plays against us last year - ‘Man, I remember when you made that big shot.’ Getting around that atmosphere is good stuff.”
Just as leaves tumble from trees and days grow shorter and colder in mid-October, league media day also has become as predictable for Notre Dame. Brey and his seniors didn’t spend Tuesday night in their midtown Manhattan hotel rooms wondering where the Irish name would appear the next morning in the preseason coaches’ poll.
Even in what many consider a down year for the Big East, the Irish, again are considered middle of the pack. Notre Dame was picked to finish seventh in the annual vote of conference coaches (see info box). Picked eighth before fighting to seventh last season, the Irish were slotted fourth, ninth, 11th, eighth and fourth the previous five preseasons.
Nash shrugged off the latest poll just as he would the honk of another taxi horn outside the Garden on Seventh Avenue. For now, it’s all just noise.
“It’s cool that we’re not picked among the top teams,” he said. “We’re never picked in the top.”
Senior forward Tim Abromaitis was the lone Irish to garner preseason honors with a second-team all-league selection.
Notre Dame was picked this week to finish ninth in a vote of league media members conducted annually by the Syracuse (N.Y.) Post-Standard.
Previous Irish players have taken the preseason poll back to campus, pasted it on the locker room bulletin board and used it as motivation for a long season that starts for real next month. This group might not give Wednesday’s rankings a second thought, not after doing what it did last winter in winning six consecutive league games to lock up a return trip to the NCAA tournament.
With the graduations of power forward Luke Harangody and point guard Tory Jackson, few within the league expect much from the Irish this season. That’s fine by Hansbrough, who understands the skepticism, but also prefers everyone check back in March.
“Who expected us to make the Big East final four at the end of last year?” Hansbrough said. “We’re not worried about preseason; we’re worried about the regular season.
“It’s all about the end of the year.”
Being around the head coaches and top players from all the Big East schools gets the juices flowing, and any visit to the Garden can’t help but stir a host of basketball memories. But the mid-week trip to New York likely was most beneficial for Brey long after media day ended and the Irish traveling party was headed for home.
Brey planned to huddle with Hansbrough and Nash for feedback about this year’s team and the first week of practice, just as he did when guys like Harangody and Jackson, Rob Kurz and Chris Quinn were seniors.
“You get to pick their brain - what do you think about us? What about the young guys?” Brey said. “It’s always interesting for me to listen to them. I really value their feedback.”
Once Brey and the players returned to campus Wednesday night, Notre Dame was scheduled to hold its first preseason scrimmage, complete with officials. It was practice No. 8 of a preseason that has already offered many answers.
Notre Dame has been good with the ball and has played fast while operating in plenty of five-on-five situations. The Irish often have looked in midseason rhythm offensively, but can improve defensively, especially in zone.
“That’s kind of who we’ve always been,” Brey said.
The five seniors have been the most consistent. With sophomores Joey Brooks and Jack Cooley and freshman Eric Atkins rotating through the lineup, there are plenty of interchangeable parts and a whole lot of length.
Prior to Tuesday’s afternoon practice, Cooley was the team’s leading rebounder in five of the first seven workouts.
“You’re starting to get a good feel for things,” Brey said. “We’re big in every spot, pretty long in every spot.”
Notre Dame opens exhibition play Nov. 1 against Marian University, a Division III school in Indianapolis.
Staff writer Tom Noie: email@example.com 574-235-6153